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Lots of parents in the Ballymena area are currently having flashbacks to their school days. Some will have chills as they attend school open nights with their own children to help them find the perfect learning atmosphere for their next step in education.
Lets face it, open nights are not the most exciting way to spend an evening. If you are from Ballymena you might be going along to 5 or 6 open night and if you have more than one child you will probably have been before to see what is on offer. However we think that it is possible to have a good open night experience.
Here is our advice:
1/ Don’t rule any local schools out. While it is unrealistic to think that you can visit all the schools in your area – don’t rule too many out too quickly. Give yourself a number of options and beware of getting your heart set on one option. Maybe your son or daughter has chosen where they want to go already – make sure that you visit a few other schools. Who knows you might be swayed.
2/ Pay special attention to the subject options, particularly high up in the school. In first year the subject choices will be pretty similar across all the schools but it is worth asking about the options available for GCSE and even A-Levels. Now, we are not expecting your child to plan out their whole school career in one night but knowing what kind of subjects are on offer might help you to be better informed for the future. For example some schools offer a range of more practical/vocational based options at GSCE and A-Level rather than more traditional academic subjects. Picking one over the other could limit you future career choices, or on the other hand offer options that you had never thought of. Some schools in Ballymena currently offer brilliantly diverse courses including Environmental Technology, Construction and Engineering.
3/ Speak to the students. There should be prefects on hand to help you around and pupils helping out in each department. Take the opportunity to ask them about their school experience, subject choices and what they enjoy about that school. Pupils are likely to be on their best behaviour but they will help you to get a feel for how every day life at the school is. One top tip is to ask the pupils what equipment / uniform items the need and what they don’t. This could save you money in the long run because you won’t be buying bits and pieces that you don’t actually need. Do you really need a kits bag with the school name on it or will it sit in the bottom of the cupboard?
And speaking of uniforms……
4/ Take a photograph of the school uniform. I know that this may seem like a silly thing to do but by the time you find out what school your child will be attending, and in the pressure cooker otherwise known as the uniform shop you will be glad of it.
Often uniform shops have several different varieties and makes of school skirts, trousers and shirts. If you have a picture of what the pupils actually wear it will be easier to pick up exactly what you want. No first year student wants to be wearing dark grey trousers when everyone else knew to let the lighter ones. Snap a photo on open night (of a display or a willing pupil) and save it in your album for future reference.
Phew – so there are our four things to remember about school open nights. For more information visit the Transfer Tutor who have shared their 17 tips for getting the most out of open night. Click here for their excellent article.
Finally we want to add a big thank you and well done to all the teachers, students and school management teams who annually have to arrange and pull off a successful open night. Schools are incredibly busy places and the opportunity to view the building and speak to teachers and students is such a benefit. Remember to thank them when you visit school open nights in Ballymena.
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